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shafted because there was a bipartisan move. clinton was president. the republicans mainly were running congress, when we had things like nafta, china most favored nation status. the wto, the world trade organization. all these trade deals that people claimed were going to bring jobs to the united states and in every case the jobs left. >> up next, jefferson morally, row counts the first race riot in washington, d.c. which took place in august of 1835 and two subsequent criminal trials tried by d.c.'s district attorney, francis scott key. mr. key, who authored "the star-spangled banner", defended splafry in his prosecution and sought capital punishment only to be thwarted by the alleged victim, who's husband
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william thornton, designed the u.s. capitol. this is just over 50 minutes. [applause] >> thank you. for that nice introduction and thank you to majors and quinn hosting this event. i suggested this to eat than back in the winter, there was never anything less than enthusiastic about having me. this was always my destination when i came to a minneapolis bookstore. i am glad i landed here. i want to tell you a little bit about the book. i will read a little bit about the book. it's nice to be here and see some old familiar faces. you know, whenever i come back to minneapolis i have this feeling what a special place marshal u was, and there are probably a few people here that will remember the place if not agree with me. and so it's always nice to be back with old friends.
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i really date my sell here. i even attended an advanced placement class at the old west high school which was right down here on hennipin you have to be really old when west high school was there. >> i beg your pardon. [laughter] >> you know people have asked me a lot, they said why did you write this book? it is so long ago and so obscure. i usually say because it's just a great story. it is a story of what happens, the events themselves are so amazing and, as a writer, as a fiction writer i would never dare to make them up but kind of plot twists this book has. when i realized they had all happened i thought that was really terrific and so for a long time people said why did you write this book any said because it was such a great story. as i got into the book i realized there was more to it than that and the book actually had even more profound message.
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and that was that this book takes place between the revolutionary war period, the founding of the country in the late 18th century and the civil war which are the two great periods in american history that get written a lot about historians, the american revolution and civil war. the period in between? kind of ignored. what i realized writing this book, pretty much everything you know about that period and everything you've been taught about that period is flat wrong, it is completely wrong and, and so i realized that part of this book is to, is to tell people that. that everything you thought you understood about this time is completely wrong. so if you think of washington in 1835, 25 years before the civil war, you know, what would you think? you would think, well, slavery was well-entrenched. the black people were miserable. the whites were kind of
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cruel and indifferent and that is actually not true at all. in washington, in washington, washington had about 30,000 people then as a city. 12,000 of them were black. the majority of the black people in washington actually in 1830 were free, were not slaves. out of the 12,000 black people, slightly more than half were free. some were prosperous and others were getting there fast. there was a man named lynch wormly who owned a big livery stable two blocks from the white house and he served horses to the city's taxi trade. he was a free black man from madagascar. there were a couple, two brothers, thomas and, thomas and isaac carey. they own ad couple of barber shops on pennsylvania avenue the they came from a free black family in virginia that had been free for generations. one of those black families that owned slaves themselves.
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the carey brothers while they were cutting hair would sell antislavery publications on the sly, on the side. the hero of the book, beverly snow, ran the city's finest restaurant called the epcurian eating house. he is hero of the book. i think of him as a barack obama slightly ahead of his time. intelligent mixed race man who comes out of nowhere to charm washington. serve the washington elite what they want only to face a tremendous backlash. read the book you will see parallels to our own time there anyway, the point is, that in this book, far from slavery being dominant in washington, d.c. and all oppressive force, slavery is actually receding and the forces of liberty are growing and that is really part of what this book is about. second thing you probably think is the civil war began in, oh, you know, april 1861
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with the gunfire at fort sumter. that is when the shooting of the civil war began but part of the argument of this book that the civil war actually began 30 years before that. it is in this period, in the early 1800's that the antsy slavery movement first comes to washington and the direct idealogical conflict that leads to the civil war, the conflict between the people who are forced slavery and conflict of people against it. it is actually starts in this time in washington. that is not something that you get taught in the history books but, you will see from this story that is actually the case. and that is what happened. so it is this band of people, the carey brothers, lynch wormly, beverly snow, who actually are the ones who really start the fight against slavery that leads to the civil war and the great expansion of american
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freedom that that brought. they had a, this little group of black entrepreneurs had a white friend. a man named ben lundy, eye tern rant editor, traveled around the country, a familiar face for me. and he an anti-slavery newspaper, called the genius of universal emancipation. he would travel most of the newspapers of the day the msm, really avoided the slavery issue. they would report on the politics of it you about they didn't really want to get into it. then lundy weren't and the country, he reported there was a killing. this man was beat. here is how the slaves escaped. here is how the churches have caved in. he did really investigative reporting about slavery, quite unprecedented at the time. anti-slavery sentiment as the movement starts to grow in washington he has enough
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money to hire a new assistant. he hires a promising young man from boston named william lloyd garrison a and he teaches william lloyd garrison you how to be journalist and report about slavery. benjamin lundy died in obsecurity and william lloyd garrison became one of the most influential abolitionists and journalists of the 19th century. he is a character in this book too. another thing you probably think the only important thing that francis scott key did in his life was write the lyrics to "the star-spangled banner". wrong again. after francis scott key wrote the lyrics to "the star-spangled banner" in 1814 he went on to long interesting career in politics which is completely unknown to most people. francis scott key really was kind of a modern washington character. after he became famous in 1814 for writing "the star-spangled banner", he did what people in
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washington usually do he parlayed his fame into lucrative law practice. he parlayed his lucrative law practice into political connections and parlayed his political connections into a john. that was the culmination of francis scott key's political career in 184 when he was appointed to be the district attorney for the city of washington. what he did in that time, i wouldn't say it was as significant as writing "the star-spangled banner" which was obviously an enduring feat but it was very important. an unknown fact about francis scott key that his best friend and brother-in-law was a man named roger taney. roger town any was like key, politically ambitious and, with key's help ascended to jobs in the administration of the andrew jackson. first key helped taney become the u.s. attorney general and then the secretary of the treasury
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and then in 1836, the chief justice of the supreme court. roger tawney went on to right the dred scott digs in the 1857 which effectively legalized slavery and hastened the coming of the civil war. to key and tawnye were inseparable and influential and important in a way totally forgotten. in washington there is key bridge which crosses the potomac river, right by where it is a park that where key used to live, his house. in the park there is lots of exhibts devoted to him. and there is one that says key was active in anti-slavery causes. and this is flat wrong. it is completely wrong. it would be much more accurate to say key was active in suppressing anti-slavery causes. part of the point of this book to remind people of all the things we really don't want to remember about our own history. so this is a book, also a book about the real francis
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scott key. but i don't want to give the wrong impression. this book is not a polemical book. it is not out to score points. it is about to tell the events of washington in 1835 and 1836 which begin on the night of august 4th, 1835, 177 years ago when a, a young man a servant, a 19-year-old african-american man, stumbles into the bedroom of his mistress, of the woman who owns him, anna maria thornton in the middle of the night carrying an axe and mrs. thornton is sleeping in the room with her servant, who is arthur's mother, the mother of the boy who just stumbled into the room. so the two women wake up, scream, arthur's mother shoes him out the door. slams the door. arthur is outside yelling
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and shouting he wants to be free. he will be free. the neighbors gather and arthur runs away and the word begins to spread, mrs. thornton has been attacked in her bedroom by a slave with an axe. this report comes at a very, a very tense time in washington. this burgeoning anti-slavery movement is distributing anti-slavery publications to everybody in town. for the first time the anti-slavery movement is really impressing upon people the reality of slavery with these kind of written reports, very detailed about what is really involved, and brutality of slavery and so among the blacks and abolitionists whites this is overdo but a lot of whites they fear this is the first shot in a slave roo bell i don't know, that arthur was part of a slave rebellion in attacking mrs. thornton. so when arthur turns himself in a few days later, says i
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have no memory of what happened he is whisked off to jail and a mob converges on the jail in downtown washington in judiciary square and tries to seeking to lynch arthur, demanding he be turned over so i can be hung on the spot. key, francis scott key comes to the defense of the jail and is trying to hold back the crowd and about to get overrun fortunately the secretary of the navy calls in the federal troops, the marines from the navy yard on the other side of washington. the troops march down pennsylvania avenue, surround the jail and push the crowd back and protect the jail so that arthur will not be lynched. so order is only temporarily restored though because the mob, frustrated by the fact they can not get their hands on arthur bowen, decide to turn their fury on every other free back person in town. so the mobs begin to split up and attack the people, any black people with property.
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the black churches the black schools, the block whore houses, any place where black people gathered the mobs were going to destroy it, including first and foremost beverly snow's restaurant which is a symbol, the symbol in washington of black success. the restaurant is right in the heart town at corner of 6th and pennsylvania. it is frequented by politicians, senators congressmen, the finest of high society. beverly snow is a well-known and respected character and the mob in its fear of this anti-slavery movement and its fear of a slave insurrection and its fear of black success attacks snow. snow had friends. he knew there was trouble coming and he manages to escape, get away but the mob trashes his restaurant, drinks all his liquor, pours it all out and goes on this rampage and destroys the city. it is quite a shocking event. totally forgotten in the history of the washington. when i asked people about this, one reason i decided to write the book i asked
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people if they had ever heard of the riot of 1835 in washington and i never met anybody who had. completely forgotten but, when you read the newspapers of the day you realize what a shocking event it was. it was the worst thing that happened in washington since the british had invaded 20 years before in 1814 and they came in and destroyed the white house and the library of congress and all that. this was comparable damage but had not been inflicted by a foreign army. it had been inflicted by americans themselves. there was a lot of shame and remorse how could this happen. a lot of re -- recriminations. so francis scott key is determined to pursue the agenda of the jackson administration which is to make sure that the slave order is safe in washington. that the slave owners are safe with their property. that they're not going, their slaves are not going to run away. and so he as district attorney has the job of establishing law and order and so he does this in a
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couple of ways. the first thing that he does is puts arthur bowen on trial for the attempted murder of mrs. thornton. he also arrests and puts on trial a, a white abolitionist, anti-slavery man from new york, a doctor named reuben crandall who had been bringing a trunk load of anti-slavery publications to washington. key wanted to send the message not just to the anti-slavery forces in washington but to the anti-slavery forces everywhere in the country, your activities will not be tolerated at all. and so that, the book tells the story how the riot comes to pass and then the story of the criminal trials that follow. so, when arthur bowen goes on trial in december of 1835 key is very eager to win a conviction. by this time mrs. thornton has come forward and come to the defense of her alleged assailant and she says in
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the trial that arthur never lifted the axe, that she never believed he intended to hurt her. she felt safe in his presence. that he was just drunk and that she wanted the whole thing to go away. well, key was i am plaqueable and he didn't listen to this. he managed to get other people to override her testimony. so arthur bowen is convicted and there is only one punishment for that, which is the death penalty, capital punishment. and so arthur bowen goes on to death row and in january of 1836 is sentenced to die in about a month. and so with the clock ticking, mrs. thornton does something even more unbelievable. i mean it was amazing enough that she had testified on arthur's behalf in the criminal trial but now she goes out and starts recruiting her friend in
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high society of washington and she was very prominent woman with many prominent friends, easy access to the leadership of the country. she went to vice president van buren and said, use your good offices with the president, with president jackson, tell him he should pardon arthur. you know, his mother is very good, you know. she says, you know, that execution would be worse than the crime. and that she couldn't contemplate that arthur would be executed. he and jackson are unmoved and so the clock keeps ticking down. and i will read you a little part of the book about what happened in february of 1836. in his cell arthur bowen searched for a way to quell the fear of death. hoped for a pardon from the president but he had to be ready if it did not happen. he had to admit the truth
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what john cook had said all along. yes he had a right to be free and yes liquor would destroy that freedom. arthur's protestations that he never intended to harm mrs. thornton no longer failed to convince even himself. of course he had no intention. the drink gave him that intention, unleashed the sinner within. by drinking the sudden passion of the murder is sharpened john cook intoned. john cook was a school teacher who advised arthur about ways to get his freedom but he was also a testimony rans man. he always told the young slave boys if you want to be free you had to two things and learn to read and write and you had to stop drinking. arthur condemned himself and for that he had to take responsibility. he decided to write a poem about this feeling of repentance. with pen and paper in hand he sat in the dim light of his jail cell thinking about his friends from the racetrack in president's square. like william thornton he had a some talent for writing. fare well, fare well, my
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freng friends dear, view my dreadful state. each flying moment brings me near to my awful fate. he made a curious reference to his family. brought up i was by parents nice whose commands i would not obey but plunged ahead foremost into vice and temptation's dreadful way. he admitted his folly in scourning the teaching of his elders. nothing did i ever drink but liquor very strong, alas i never used to think i was doing wrong. to me was read the awful since oh dreadful in my years it rang gave me time for my repentance and i must be hanged. good-bye, good-bye my fraends so dear, may god almighty please you all. if you please shed but a tear at arthur bowen's unhappy fall. copies of arthur's poem soon circulated. the intelligence, the big newspaper in washington published a copy. the editor of the metropolitan which was the newspaper in georgetown pronounced it very credible. everyone in washington
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seemed to know that mrs. thornton's personal petition for clemency to arthur had been presented to president jackson. it asked him to exercise that mercy within his power alone. the people awaited jackson's response said the georgetown metropolitan with the deepest anxiety. i'm going to leave it there. [laughter] you have to buy the book. i know what happens next. so, i want to close with one note just to bring this story back to the present. when the book was reviewed in the "washington post" the, the reviewer took issue with an argument that i make in the book which is that as i spent more and more time writing the book i realized that there was more and more similarity between the politics of the 1830's and our politics today. and i said that really the
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red-blue politics that we, that we see today, that is the red states, conservative, blue states liberal, if you looked it really originates in this period. and i disagree quite strongly with that, with the reviewer's contention. he said, readers may find element of the book jarring beginning with the assertion that pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces in the 1830's resemble political division between red, conservativism and blue liberal. this is unhelpful at best, misleading at first. i totally disagree. i think that the similarities are quite clear and as i point out in the book, they really revolve around a timeless issues of american politics and it is no surprise that they are, that they are the same. then as now americans argue about what are property rights? what kind of property rights does any individual have? and in the 1830s, that argument revolved around slavery. did people have the right to
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own property in people? and the red forces which are traditionally the force that are in favor of more property rights, maximal property rights, were in favor of the maximal property rights embodied in slavery. the liberal forces which are traditionally have a more restricted view of property rights, had, you know, said no, there is no such thing as property in people. likewise in the debates about citizenship, part of the debate about slavery was a debate about citizenship. did the blacks have the right to be citizens? very similar to today's debate about illegal immigration. do these people have the right to be citizens? do they deserve the rights to be citizens. then as now the conservatives took the restrictive position. no, american citizenship is reserved for a smaller group, native-born americans. then as now the liberals took a more expansive view, that citizenship was open to a greater number of people. also with free speech, when francis scott key is
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prosecuting the anti-slavery movement it is a classic free speech argument of type we still have today. he said, no, we have to restrict free speech rights to protect our safety. you know, if we allow the anti-slavery forces to say this, then we'll have slave rebellions and we'll all be insecure. so we need to restrict free speech rights and that is the same argument that conservatives make today and liberals make, likewise make the same, take the same position then as they do now, which is no, free speech rights should be maximal and we should worry less about safety and more about preserving free speech rights. so that is a very strong theme that runs throughout the book and, some people disagree with it. read it for yourself and, decide for yourself. so, with that, i think i'm going to stop and maybe just answer, any questions that people have about the book or what i have said so far. yes? >> where did you first come
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across this piece of history, and how long did you nuture it before you decided to write a book? >> i first heard about this in about 1998. i was a reporter at "the washington post." i was working on a story about a neighborhood historic preservation dispute which got me to read some history of the city of washington and that's where i found, i first heard there had been a race riot in 1835 and i heard francis scott key had been the district attorney. i thought that was really interesting. i went around the post newsroom and i asked people, did you ever know about this race riot? has anybody ever written about this? nobody had written about it and nobody knew about it. so i knew it was a story then. and so i wrote a piece for the sunday magazine for "the washington post" in 2005 but i always thought it was such a great story if i ever had the chance i would write a whole book bit. so i kind of had in the back of my mind. in 2009 i got fired from a job and i said, no job, you
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always want to write that book. go write the book and have a good time. so i had been nuturing all along. even after i wrote the article in 2005, i always thought i would write a book some day. i continued to read in the period and do more research. so i nurtured it for a long time. when i got the contract, that was three years ago. it took about two years to research and finish the book in that whole time. >> you mentioned william lloyd garrison. >> yeah. >> being tutored by lundy i believe? >> yes. >> and he was alive at this particular incident. was he in washington you say? >> well, so, garrison and lundy did that nobody had ever done in american journalism, they would write about about specific slave traders and would name names. nobody ever done this before. lundy started doing it.
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he taught garrison how to do it. originally they were publishing in baltimore which was a bigger slave trading town. they both wrote articles about different slave traders. one saying this man was a post because he sold off children, he had broken up families. actually both of them, that's what they wrote about. in both cases slave traders waylaid them after their articles appeared. beat the hell out of them, and then when lundy filed charges in his case the judge said, well, you deserved it and dismissed the charges and dismissed the case. in the garrison's case, after beating garrison up, the slave trader also charged him with liable and, so garrison was about to go on trial in baltimore in 1833 and was, knew that he was not going to get a fair trial. so he skipped town. he left in 1833 and he went back to boston. that is when he founded the liberator which became the great anti-slavery
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publication in the united states. and lundy had to leave town as well. he charged him in 1833 with, lundy wrote an article about a story that was well-known in washington at the time which was a black woman was walking across the bridge over the potomac and constable started chasing her and people, all the black people in washington knew what that meant. the constables supplemented their income by kidnapping free blacks and selling them into slavery. the woman ran away because she knew they were trying to kidnap her. she fell off the bridge into the potomac and she drowned. they got her body and burr i had her and. lundy wrote an article. here is the name of the constable. if the district attorney isn't going to do something about it then congress should doing about it. key hit the roof. he was furious. and so he immediately charged lundy with liable. and went and charged him with his printer another
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white man helped him run off the copies. he was trying to drive the anti-slavery people out of the capitol. they wanted to get rid of the anti-slavery forces in washington and so, and so lundy did the same thing as garrison. he was facing like $1,000 fine which would be like, you know, $20,000 or you know, $100,000 in today's money. and so, lundy collected one last meal from his friend and he took off and went to philadelphia. so yeah, so the anti-slavery movement was very embattled throughout this time and that was, you know, that was key's mission was to kind of drive these people out and suppress them. so. >> was there, at this time, what you would call mainstream press that was covering the whole thing including the abolitionist newspapers and -- >> no.
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no. >> how -- >> there were a lot of papers at the time. there were three daily newspapers in washington at the time reflecting three different political tendencies and there was a weekly newspaper. then there was a weekly newspaper in georgetown which was a separate, you know, georgetown is now part of washington, d.c. then it was a separate municipality. so there were a lot of newspapers but these were newspapers that were aligned with political factions in the government. and so they would talk about, they would write about slavery as politics of slavery were being playing out in congress. somebody presented a petition for the abolition of slavery in the district of columbia, they would write a story about that but about the experience of slavery or the abuses of slavery, they would never, they would never write about. >> and what about the race riot and the trial and the -- >> oh -- >> all that. >> the race riot was very well-covered because it was very shocking. nobody expected that to
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happen and there was a lot of recriminations and debate and, you know, who was responsible. kind of then the white working men, the riot was attributed in the newspapers to what were called mechanics. and a mechanic was --. >> [inaudible]. >> a mechanic was any kind of working man. it wasn't like our, our conception of an auto mechanic. it was any manual worker. well the mechanics got together, at least some of them said, how dare you say that we did this, you know. we didn't do that. so there were lots of recriminations and that was covered in the, and, but, you know, like what happened to beverly snow? nobody ever wrote about that but you could tell, in reading the newspapers i saw, snow took out advertisements all the time. that was the chief way i figured out who he was because his ads were very witty. they changed all the time and he really disclosed a lot of his personality in
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there but, you know, when push came to shove, nobody, no white authorities wanted to be seen in the position of defending the free blacks and so that was why, that was why the public authority kind of collapsed because nobody wanted to be seen as doing that. and the newspapers were part of that. they really didn't want to, they didn't want to touch the issue. it was a little too expose sieve for them. >> and mrs. thornton's campaign? >> and mrs. thornton's campaign, well that is was the thing. they couldn't ignore mrs. thornton. mrs. thornton was very prominent. her husband, william thornton, had designed the u.s. capitol. was a very close friend of george washington's. was a close friend of thomas jefferson. and so she was a leading lady in society. while they wouldn't write about what she was doing directly, in that part you could tell, the word had gotten around that mrs. thornton was trying to get, was trying to help arthur and so that was, you
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could kind of see that nobody ever wrote an article about that but you heard int at thismations about that throughout the press coverage at time. so. yee? >> a couple of questions. you, talked a lot about the difficult parallels between then and now and you, i guess i would be interested in more frontally talking about race then and now. >> yeah. >> and what parallels you might see. and then also, you're talking about the then and now, it is kind of sounding like we're condemned to repeat history? is that your, is that your conclusion? or is it we can learn from it, what you're writing about? >> no. i think, yes, the politics of race are central and, when i talk about those principles, you know that we debate in kind of red-blue, liberal conservative division, you know, race
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runs through those and that's a big part of it. i think one thing remarkable about this story, and i remember on, inauguration day when president obama is coming up pennsylvania avenue and he gets out and starts walking down the street and i'm watching the tv, oh, my god, that is snow's corner. that is where beverly snow had his restaurant and realized nobody knows it, not even barack obama himself this is like the quintessential obama story. and nobody knows it. and i think to me, i don't know, this doesn't directly answer your question but this idea of, you know, just black success is just like written out of the history. it is just, sort of religiously forgotten and, i mean that is, that is my only explanation for why this story is not known, why nobody knows the story of beverly snow or the riot of 1835. are we condemnedded to repeat it? well, i think the obama
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experience tells you these continuities run very deep, you know? and the backlash against obama i think is very, akin to the backlash against beverly snow. i don't see any other way to look at it. obama is the president. he is not running a restaurant. so i think, yeah, the country is in better shape but the underlying dynamics are still there. they haven't changed that much. >> this is kind of beyond the scope of the book but was there any kind of organized or vocalized response from the black community itself in washington to this incident at the time? was it basically everybody running and hiding? >> no. there was, in fact, isaac carey, the barber, probably beverly snow's best friend and who had a barber shop next to the restaurant, then filed a lawsuit because
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there was a crackdown on black businesses after all this happened. perversely the white authorities, the response to the white riot was to crack down on black business deny the blacks the right to own licenses to, in his case, he was selling perfume in his bar bother shop and he wanted to keep his license to sell perfume and he won that case. but the riot was very discouraging for washington and, and a lot of the, the most able and successful blacks left and went to, went to toronto and beverly snow and william walker, who was his business partner, another free black man wound up in toronto. the carey brothers, thomas and isaac carey wound up in toronto. there was kind of an exodus. they had reached the limits what was possible in washington. they had seen they weren't going to be allowed to go any farther so they moved on. yeah? >> say something about the
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research. your frustrations your try premiums? >> well, well, i always knew, like your question, that i was going to do this book and one reason why i knew because the sources were so interesting and there were so many good sources. probably the first, first and foremost was, anna thornton's, by the time this story takes place is 55 years old. she has been keeping a diary of her life for close to 40 years. and pretty much wrote down every day, you know, five days a week, six days a week what happened in her life. she wasn't, this is not an emotional diary. she was not a confessional or expressive type of person but she said what happened in her life. you know. mr. adams came over, that was john quincy adams, former president. mr. adams came over. we played chess. i read, she read mary shelly, frankenstein, and she
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thought that was very morbid. she went to the market and played 12 cents for a dozen eggs. she wrote down everything that she, all of her purchases. so for recreating daily life this was an extraordinary source and made me realize that i was going to be able to recreate daily life in a very intimate, realistic way. i didn't want to write a book about congress and politicians. i wanted to write a book about the way people lived in washington. this became kind of a mission in mind as i got into this research, to write a book really about living in washington and not about washington politics. the daily newspapers were an abundant source of information because there were so many of them and you had these different tendencies. they would look at things slightly differently. and you could get a lot of information that way. and then i spent a lot of time in the national archives and i found the docket book of the court, for the circuit court at the time. so you could find out, you
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know, who was breaking the law and how they were breaking the law. who was suing each other. how did business deals go bad. you could really get a real sense of the texture of daily life. and then finally the last thing was the property tax records which were also in these book, bound volumes and there i could track, you know, i could see beverly snow getting richer by the year. when he comes to town he has nothing. after first year he has $100. at the second year he has got 200. third year he has 300. if you're making $300 a year at that time you're starting to move into the middle class. you could track characters that way. so that was another way to i really, learned a lot about the characters that are in there book. then there was, francis scott key himself who, is, you know, everybody knows his name and yet there hadn't been a biography of him written since 1939.
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there was a lot about francis scott key that was just lying around and roger tawny. when i was doing research i found in the court records many indictments, you know, hand-signed f. s. key. in my hands i had 100 autographs of francis scott key. that was, you know, a thing. the thing that i think i'm most proud of, figuring out who beverly snow was through his advertisements. because, he left no records. he left no diary or letters. wherever he went he seemed to attract attention because there were always, people always had anecdotes about him. but i really didn't know that much about him, and i had seen some of ads and i thought that was interesting. i realized, no, you need to go back and read every single newspaper and get every single ad because that's where he is going to express himself. in fact they're very funny and you really get a sense of the man.
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one of his favorite ads was called, health made cheap. and he was selling the idea of health food in 1830s. this food is not only good, it is good for you. a very modern idea. beverly snow was a great, in the true washington tradition he was a master of self-promotion, you know. he was great at it and self-invented american and i think that's really the thing that i liked the most about this book is that this person who nobody knew existed actually comes to life and you realize, what a great and unusual person he was. and there he is on the pages of the book. yeah? >> did you compile the book all at once, absorb all the information and then compile the book or did you start to compile the book as you went and then revised it? or were you overwhelmed with all the information or as you were reading it or did you phase yourself. >> i did it in phases. i did the magazine article so i had expressed it but when i decided to write the
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book i decided i would not start writing right away. i spent about nine months just doing research. the idea was get everything in place and don't try to start too early. then once i had that in place, i wasn't overwhelmed. i mean, it took a while. i, there were three drafts of this book, three full, different versions of it. so it took a while to get it under control and figure out what was most important and what could be cut out. the one version was like 700 pages long and that was later, by the end it was probably 300 manuscript pages long. a lot got left out which you're very lucky because it wasn't that interesting. so, yeah, it took a while to get the material under control for sure. >> did you use a filing system or did you use geological strattification system that your father used? >> what i did was i made a
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file and had a separate file folder for the key period of the book which is 1835 and 1836 where i had a folder for every day of the year. >> oh, my god. >> every newspaper article i would put it into, i would put it into that. so when the time came i was writing about august 1835 i could pull out a week and i would have all the newspaper articles all with my notes in a row and, you know, ready to tell the story like that. i have a horror of a blank page as a writer. you never want to sit down and look at a blank page. then you go, oh, my god. you don't know where to begin, you don't know what to do. so what you always want to do is have good notes in front of you. so really what you're doing is kind of editing the notes and turning the notes into prose so you're never looking at a blank page. that is how i could get going on it. yeah? >> so did you do this by hard copy or on your computer? >> a little bit of both.
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i like having, i like having paper copies when i started. and i was reading the newspapers at the library congress you could only make photocopies of them. later on they had this very cool machine where you could make pdfs right off the newspaper. so i had, at some points i had, i had kind of a parallel, two parallel systems. it was kind of inefficient. that was the only way to do it. and then there were, you know, things that i had found in, you know, letters and things like that i would make copies of but never turn them into things to go onto the computer. so i'm half in the digital world but still half in the paper world to make it happen. yeah? >> i'm interested in the, the texture, the change of the city of washington. you mentioned 1835, 30,000 people. >> right. >> 12,000 are
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african-americans. >> right. >> how did the 12,000, how many are free? >> 6,000 plus. majority by like, 50. >> so there is an exodus after this event. what changes within washington? >> no. actually that trend continues and the free black population in washington continues to grow. in fact by the beginning of the civil war free black people outnumber slaves in washington like four to one. so in the next 20 years, because, you have to understand, that if you are a black person in virginia, and you got your freedom you had to leave the state within a year by law or you could be sold back into slavery. and so those people, once they got their, they weren't going to go to boston or new york even though there was no slavery in those states. first of all, philadelphia was a four or five-day ride at best. the and then it is an alien culture. it is not a southern culture. so the blacks once they got
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their freedom they went to the district and they flocked to the district. there were jobs there. opportunity was there. slavery was legal there, but the civil of slavery in washington, again, this was a big surprise to me. this was not plantation safeliry. mrs. thornton, mrs. thornton had a guy, a servant she owned, a man named george plant, and he was her driver and kind of the jack-of-all-trades who kept the house up, fixed all the wagons and did all that. well, george plant had a wife who was free. she lived in georgetown and he had four kids and they were free. he would go home at night. in the morning, so he was a slave who commuted. [laughter] but that was, i mean that was one of the variations of slavery in washington at that time. so a lot of slaves made money by their owners would hire them out. your owner would say, okay, you are hired out to the owner of a hotel. you would be a waiter in a hotel.
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the owner of the hotel would pay your owner your wages. and so but you were there. you are a waiter. you could make tips. you controlled your own time. slavery was a much more fluid thing in washington and that's one reason why the anti-slavery movement could get going because there was more room to operate and this was one of the things that key was most upset about was that this freedom, these little corners of freedom that the blacks were finding, everybody understood that was going to be the tee hold, the foot in the door to greater freedom. that is what they were out, that is what they were trying to open press. this is when the real idealogical struggle over slavery begins. when the slave power is determined to stamp out the anti-slavery forces and and at this slavery forces are beginning to organize themselves, appeal to public opinion and grain strength in the congress and that is the fight that grinds on and eventually culminates in the civil war 25 years later.
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>> and then your commuter slave, for lack of a better term, would that be more like indentured slave and someone owing money. >> would think be able to buy their freedom at that point in time? >> no. >> they had some earning potential? >> no. that would still be up to the owner. there were, but there were conditions like that. like beverly snow, for, i have never quite figured this out but he had a term sort of written into his terms of slavery that he would be free when he was 30. and so when he was 30 he bought his freedom for $5. that was something that had been recognized he was due and it was legally his due. there were white indentured servants although that was dying out by the 1830s. but, you know, how block freedom got their freedom it happened all different ways. sometimes it was given to you. sometimes when people died
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they freed all their slaves. sometimes they said, you know, the slaves would have to pay, you know the going rate like, you know, for a healthy young person that could be, $800, a $1,000. which was a lot of, a lot of money. i mean you could live for a couple years on $1,000. so, but, slavery was, there were lots of permutations of slavery in washington. lots of race mixing too. it is amazing to think about but there is no doubt about it, washington was a more racially integrated city in 1835 than it is in 2012. there were no black neighborhoods in washington in 1835. blacks and whites lived very much intermingled. there were black box blocks and things like that, but there was no, oh, that's a black neighborhood. that did not exist at that time. >> do you know the degree of
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black literacy at this time? >> it is very hard to tell. john cook was a free black men and and like the smartest black guy in town and everybody agreed and he was the teacher at the school and he had organized a little group for young black men which arthur bowen was part of, which was trying to teach them, want to got out of slavery, here is how you do it. and so, he, you know, he had a school and william wormly, the son of lynch wormly who owned a livery stable also had a school. there was education but like what percentage? i don't know. arthur bowen was very well, was obviously literate if he could have written that poem. mrs. thornton's had taught him to read and write but how common that was, i don't really know. it is very hard to say. but it was not unknown that black people were, you know,
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were literal, -- lit even slaves. anybody else? sure. >> who was mrs. thornton lived alone or who was she with? >> mrs. thornton, her husband had died. so she lived in her house with her own mother who had been a school teacher and who was very fond of arthur as well. in fact i think mrs. thornton's mother was probably the one who taught arthur how to read and write. so in her bedroom that night was mrs. thornton, her mother and maria bowen was anna thornton's personal servant and also slept in the same room as the two other women. so, i don't know, like i don't know if that was unusual. i, you can tell from the diary that anna thornton and maria bowen were very close. they ran that household together and, you know they had fights and all of that but they were, they were very dependent on each
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other, you know. and so, they slept in the same bedroom. that is all i know. >> and she's the one of course that only one that stood up and -- >> yeah, yeah. >> [inaudible]. >> will you tell us if mrs. thornton recorded in her diary the day after arthur came in with the axe? last night arthur came in with the axe or what? >> no. and as her drive to save arthur, to get arthur, to save arthur on death row it accelerates it always comes down to what president jackson thinks. so she has to convince him. so she writes an 18-page letter, 18-page handwritten letter which she describes the whole event. and i mean second by second detail, both everything that led up to it and everything that followed. so, yeah, you've got a very,
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you learn first-hand exactly what she saw and what had happened that night. >> and you had access to that letter? >> yeah. i found that letter in the pardon papers of the president. all pardoned requests for pardons, petitions for the president go into a file and in the petition file i found anna thornton's letter for the appealing for the pardon of arthur bowen. so, yeah, the original, handwritten. >> doesn't it raise for you, how much other fascinating stories are just sitting here underneath another piece of paper? >> i mean after writing this pock, many, many. i mean, i'm sure there were. i'm sure they're there and i think they could be very unexpected and surprising. so i'm still looking for it so i can write another book. okay?
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>> would that be one of the main lessons that you got from writing this book or was there another one you could tell us about? >> that was, i mean, that was really the big one, that, you know, the way history's taught can be so, can be so misleading, you know. and that the way, the key is to get to the reality of how people lived, you know. not the politics, the way history is traditionally construed but actually, you know, what was the day-to-day life of people like. that's what i came away with. so, okay, well, thank you. [applause] >> for more information visit >> it really was scary before we liberated let's say, baker county [laughing] but to have this happen, to
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have a blogger, you're only trying to do the best that you can for everyone and to have someone take your words, to use the, the equipment that they have today to, to cut and splice, to make your message appear to be the exact opposite of what it was and what it is, is just an unbelievable situation and it is a way to terrorize someone because you don't know that you will ever really be able to get the truth out, but i was determined. even if i had to tell one person at a time, you know. >> so then it makes me think, there is this whole media kind of energy around this
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book but the last time there was this kind of media energy was that, july 2010 when it went down. >> yes. >> people were going back to those places who interviewed you, who were making accusations calling you a reverse racist. the speed which that happened, how does it feel being back in the space now that you do have the whole story? >> it feels good to know that, first of all, that i was able to use that same media in a sense to be able to get the, the story, the right story out. it feels, gosh, i can't explain how great it feels to be able to sit here, to hear the actress really, oh my goodness, i don't know whether you saw me, i was crying a little. it's really amazing. i didn't ever think, i made the decision years ago that i didn't want people to forget my father and what he
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meant to us. i had no idea i would be able to tell the story in this way. it feels great. >> what's, what's so beautiful this book is i feel like it's more than a book. it is a living, it is a living history. it is like a love letter to choices. and it reminds us that without the feelings the facts don't convey enough of what a history has been. >> yes. >> and that is brutal at the history of african-americans struggle for humanity and rights has been. there has been humanity and love and family and choice and possibility and sacrifice. so wonder if you could go back. i know you were in the jim crow south in baker county, in georgia and you were daddy's girl. and trying to get all gangster driving the tractor at 4 years old and in the streets and neighborhood. tell us about that. >> well, you know, we were in baker county, out, you
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hear about, you read about some of the i have haves of earlier years but the gator and the sheriff in our county wanted to be known as the gator. the gator actually ruled every thing, everyone in the county. you can't imagine looking at the western from earlier days anyone like him but he was worse than what you have seen in your worst western. but growing up in that we, my family lived, my great-great grandparents had come to baker county. i don't know whether they came as slaves or not but i know they end up there as share croppers and with the up tent on buying land and that they did. they bought enough land that the area where i grew up was still today called hawkins town and lots of family. but it was that way, you
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know, the hawkins lived in one area the williams in another but we were all one big family and felt we had to help each other. so i was raised up on a farm and my father, there were five girls. you know, any farmer wants a son. i guess any man want as son but, my mother mother and father kept having babies and they were all girls. now we all had boys nicknames. i was bill. [laughter] >> your nickname is bill? >> yeah. >> that is hilarious. >> but as safe as we could be in the situation we were in we felt safe and comfortable there. and i feel like my father, he wanted us to have an education. he knew that education was the key to a better life but i really think he thought all of us would just
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